National Fisherman

The Rudderpost 

jesJes Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman magazine and NationalFisherman.com.

 

It seems the only thing sustainable about oil is its expense.

I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Marketplace reported that oil had dropped to just shy of $126 a barrel. I never thought I'd be daydreaming about the heady days when everyone was shellshocked after it passed the $50 mark. (That was less than four years ago.)

But when it comes to fuel prices, as bad as it seems over here, it's always worse in Europe.

In protest of the cost of diesel fuel, French commercial fishermen have been blockading ports and refineries for weeks<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_west/7425616.stm">; and in Madrid, they're handing out free fish while they're tied up to the docks.

Welsh fishermen say that between the French blockades and the cost of fuel, they're on the brink of total collapse.

Plenty of American fishermen are tying up to the docks because the price of fresh fish has not overtaken the rising cost of oil.

So what can we do at this point, besides cross our fingers and hope for the best?

Even if there were some sort of revolution in efficiency and/or alternative fuels, the cost of switching over would be overwhelming to most small-boat fishermen or any small-business owner.

The fact is, there is no quick fix for this problem. Protests aren't going to solve the problem (though I can't blame the Europeans, who are paying at least double what we are for the same product), and tying up is certainly not a long-term solution for any fisherman who has to make a living.

I have to wonder if the government stepped in to offer subsidies and tax breaks, would they be a little more careful about the influx of farmed seafood imports?

I guess I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope.

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The day after Christopher Tobey, a lobsterman from Kittery, Maine, drowned after his boat capsized on Mother's Day, the reader comments in our Portland paper's online edition exemplified the disconnect between fishing culture and some of the folks on the fringes of fishing communities.

Most comments left condolences for Tobey's son (who survived the capsizing by swimming with the other crewman to a nearby island), other family and friends. But more than one person mentioned the perils of fishing in "bad" or "dangerous" weather.

Here's the thing, there was a small craft advisory for Mother's Day, but certainly no gale warning or thunderstorms. Christopher Tobey, who was 46 and had been fishing since high school, no doubt had fished through many a small craft advisory. On top of that, Tobey and his crew were fishing a special order for Mother's Day. What small-town fisherman is going to say no to that?

Since I started working for this magazine 2 1/2 years ago, I've learned a lot about the tenacity of fishing communities. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people out there have no idea what the daily life of a fisherman really is — even folks who live in fishing towns.

In these media-saturated times, it rarely hurts to speak louder and more often.

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This week on "Deadliest Catch," the fellas caught a little Fo'c'sle Fever.

Capt. Keith Colburn (the Wizard), who I now refer to as Cap'n Cup-O-Noodles, spoke loudly and plainly to his brother, Monte, a deckhand and relief skipper.

Those outbursts are a little painful to watch at times, but it's definitely good TV. The more perplexing act of aggression was that of deckhand Matt on the Hansen brothers' boat, the Northwestern.

When I saw the clips of Matt punching a cod, I figured he was letting off some steam after a verbal confrontation with greenhorn Jake. But when the show came back, the clip revealed that he is apparently just kind of, well, let's just say it looked like he was punching cod for camera time. Is that really the best you have to offer, Matt?

My opinion of him was confirmed when Matt went for Jake's throat. If there's anything riskier than rolling around on an icy deck in the Bering Sea, it's letting your emotions get the best of you and rumbling with fellow crewmen on said icy deck. (Not to mention Jake made Matt look even more pathetic as he tossed him onto the deck one-handed.)

It must be tough to be stuck in close quarters with a guy who is possibly a threat to your position in a lucrative job. But as the old hand, not the greenhorn, Matt should know better.

Hats off to Edgar and Sig for managing the situation without being namby-pamby about the dangers of crab boat combat.

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It's hard to believe, in this economy, that some folks in Alabama are pushing to buy out gillnet fishermen. And yet…

Fortunately, the ban stalled in the state Legislature yesterday when Senate republicans tried to replace the bill with a version the House passed last year. That version would make the gillnet buyouts voluntary and provide funds for a five-year study on the effects of the nets on local fish stocks.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. In the grand scheme of fisheries management, five years is a blip on the radar. And a study, perhaps followed by a mandatory buyout, seems like the least we can do to be sure that we're eliminating jobs — not to mention a way of life and family legacies — in order to preserve fish stocks.

Otherwise, we're firing folks in a bad economy because one group feels like it's the right thing to do.

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I was impressed with the turnout at Saturday's Maine Fishermen's Forum in Rockport.

I don't know if it was the Maine lobster boat racing session first thing in the morning that brought in the crowds, but many fishermen braved a nasty winter storm and greasy roads to take part in the forum at the Samoset Resort. Thanks to all of you who participated in the sessions and stopped by our booth to check in.

The most interesting session for me was the discussion on Friday of Marine Stewardship Council certification of the Maine lobster industry. The feeling in that room was that Maine is going forward with a full assessment of the industry and working toward certification. (A presumably positive pre-assessment has already been conducted.) Add a comment

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Who doesn't love to see Ben Stein declaring the abundance and deliciousness of Alaska wild seafood?

The first time I saw the ad for the new Wendy's fish sandwich, I thought they said it is made of North Pacific pollock. My husband corrected me — they said cod, honey. I would have sworn I heard pollock, but in the end I didn't care who won that argument. (For the record, it's cod. And this is going to be his favorite blog entry of mine, maybe forever.) Add a comment

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After all the tuna talk of the past couple of weeks, I gave in to my sushi cravings.

I shared a bento box at my favorite local Japanese restaurant, which included a smattering of nigiri sushi (slabs on rice), maki-zushi (rolls), sashimi (slabs), a scallop dish, salad, tempura and miso soup. Add a comment

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It's nice to see that the New York Times finally got around to running a story on seafood that is less likely to scare its readers away from a healthful alternative to the standard American diet.

Last week, the National Fisheries Institute contacted the paper requesting corrections and clarifications to Marian Burros' Jan. 23 article "High Mercury Levels Are Found in Tuna Sushi." The Times staff promised something in writing, but would not commit to a date. Add a comment

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Ten years ago, El Nino was throwing West Coast fishermen for a loop. Warming water temperatures led to migrating species.

Now fishermen in California, Oregon and Washington are dodging dead zones and Marine Protected Areas, and some would argue that the difficulties are all man-made. Add a comment

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National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 10/21/14

In this episode:

North Pacific Council adjusts observer program
Fishermen: bluefin fishing best in 10 years
Catch limit raised for Bristol Bay red king crab
Canadian fishermen fight over lobster size rules
River conference addresses Dead Zone cleanup

National Fisherman Live: 10/7/14

In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about the 1929 dragger Vandal.

 

Inside the Industry

NOAA and its fellow Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have announced the signing of a formal Record of Decision to implement a gulf restoration plan. The 44 projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, will restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

Read more...

The Golden Gate Salmon Association will host its 4th Annual Marin County Dinner at Marin Catholic High School, 675 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield on Friday, Oct 10, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

Read more...

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